What kind of impact is Generative AI such as ChatGPT having on skills development in small businesses?

This Round 4 Innovation Fund project investigates how skills in digital and media small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) in greater Brighton are impacted by Generative AI.

Whilst there is general survey data about the use of AI by larger firms, we know far less about the specific incorporation and impact of Generative AI in operations.  This is especially true for IT and digital SMEs where we may expect to observe particularly rapid adoption and change.

Through focus groups, in-depth interviews and observation at network events, the project will generate a detailed account of the ways in which Generative AI is incorporated into the work of digital SMEs and the skills it requires, augments, and replaces.

The research will provide timely evidence addressing current gaps in our understanding of the relationship between the adoption of AI technologies and the future of work, particularly in relation to SMEs.

Research questions

  1. How do advanced digital SMEs adopt and utilise Generative AI?
  2. How does the use of Generative AI transform a variety of tasks, in the case of digital firms, especially writing, audio/visual production and coding?
  3. How are ‘legacy’ skills in these task areas replaced and rendered obsolete?
  4. How are extant skills augmented and transformed?


The research design has three components:

  • Focus groups with representatives of companies adopting AI
  • Semi-structured interviews with representatives of companies adopting AI
  • Participant and nonparticipant observation at network events


Principal Investigator: Dr Dimitrinka Stoyanova Russell, Cardiff Business School

Co-Investigator: Dr Christopher Russell, Canterbury Christ Church Business School

Industry Collaborator: Dan Wallman, TechNative Digital

Digit Collaborator: Professor Ödül Bozkurt, University of Sussex